Reading Our Own
The Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for women (CCLOW) is currently undertaking a project to develop an annotated resource guide to Canadian literacy materials for women. It will involve the identification and collection of high quality literacy materials for women - materials which are non-sexist and which respond to and reflect the varied aspirations, interests, and learning needs of adult women literacy students.
Our first step... As a first step, CCLOW sent out a questionnaire to women's groups, literacy groups, literacy practitioners, and others involved in women's literacy education. The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect information about, and examples of, recommended literacy materials for women. Replies have been received at the CCLOW office and information is now being entered on computer in preparation for production of the resource guide.
What we are discovering... Initially, when we launched this project, we were uncertain what we would find. There was little information available about Canadian literacy materials, and even less about literacy materials for women. We knew, from an earlier CCLOW study, Women and Adult Basic Education in Canada: An exploratory study (1984), that there was a dearth literacy materials available for women in this country. This was quickly confirmed by a number of the replies we received: "We were certainly aware as we visited literacy programs the there is a great void of good relevant materials for adults and particular for women" (Literacy coordinator, St. John's).
But, at CCLOW we had heard that adult learners in a few community literacy programs were beginning to write and publish their own materials. We wanted to learn more about the and other new initiatives, and to share this information with others.
Response to our questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive with most of the three hundred respondents writing in support the project. Although many respondents could not recommend any literacy materials for women, most indicated that the needed women's literacy materials in their program. They we hopefully enthusiastic about the project: "The best materials' home grown. Maybe your survey will help encourage more home grown efforts" (literacy coordinator, North Bay); "I hope you uncover vast hordes of easy to read materials" (Literacy searcher, Halifax); "I am extremely interested in your project - there is a tremendous need for this sort of resource. Having just begun a literacy project focussing on women, I feel as if I am working in a vacuum" (literacy worker, Kingston).